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Duluth shop creates display space for local artists

ALT Creative on East Fourth Street features work by over 30 local artists in one space. Rather than having to bring their artwork to several art shows in the area, artists can show their work in the store.

Woman standing in a store.
Melissa Wiesser in her ALT Creative arts collective and market Sunday. The Duluth store offers works by more than 20 local artists in various mediums.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Melissa Weisser and Stephanie Wourms had always dreamed of opening a shop where they could showcase their artwork. Since November, the duo have teamed up to create ALT Creative, a shop that showcases nearly 30 artists, in a former H&R Block office, 508 E. Fourth St.

"We've been artists and crafters for many, many years and did the same art and crafts shows in the area for years," Weisser said. "And it just got to be a lot to haul all your stuff around from show to show. So we've always dreamed about having a storefront and inviting in other artists."

Section of a store.
A section of the ALT Creative arts collective and market illustrates the ranges of items available at the store.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Weisser noticed the empty storefront last November with a "for rent" sign in the front window.

Painting of a landscape.
“Island Lake,” an acrylic paining on canvas by Melissa Wiesser, is one of the items available at ALT Creative.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"We decided to just go for it," Weisser said. "The rent seemed like something we could swing, so we designed a quick logo, signed the papers and got going."

Weisser and Wourms decided to name the store "ALT Creative" because it features mainly handmade creative items and because "'alt' means a little bit of everything," according to Weisser.

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Toy animal.
A whimsical toy animal at ALT Creative.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"Basically, it's all the things. We welcome anybody's artform or expression," Weisser said. "We have everything from hand-carved figurines to hand-poured candles, fuzzy blankets to beautiful paintings. And we try to keep it all reasonably affordable so that way it remains accessible to all people, whether you walk in with $2 or $200."

The first few months were pretty empty and quiet, Weisser said. But once they started getting more artists involved and marketing more on social media, things started to pick up.

Artwork on a wall.
One of Stephanie Wourms’ pieces at ALT Creative.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"We started with five artist friends who wanted to sell their stuff," Weisser said. "Now we're up to 30, and all of them are from around the area."

In exchange for the use of space, the store takes a small cut of the sales, approximately 25%, to cover utilities and marketing. Weisser said the main goal of the store isn't to make much of a profit, but to "build community."

"I feel like there's a hole in Duluth for this type of thing. We're here to try and fill that need," Weisser said. "And to give back as we do it. We have artists who are continuously running fundraisers alongside their sales, so we can donate back to good causes such as clean water, Planned Parenthood and supporting Ukraine."

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Weisser herself shows her paintings in the store, along with some Lake Superior agate jewelry. Wourms is a crocheter who makes and sells washcloths, hot pads and market bags. Weisser's famliy has also joined the business, with her sister making Lake Superior-themed T-shirts and her mother, who sells fuzzy blankets, known as "Grandma Patty Blankets."

Earrings
Karley Graves' earrings at ALT Creative.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"We're low on them right now because she's fighting cancer right now," Weisser said. "But she started making them for people who have a death in the family or going through some kind of hardship, like she is now. And they're basically a hug in a blanket. Just having them here right now gives good energy to the store."

The store is still taking on new artists. They do not have a set cap on artists yet, but Weisser said it's more important to have artists who are willing to help out around the store and update their displays to keep things fresh and new.

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"We could always use more help so that we can keep the store open more hours. It's not something that three or four of us who also work full-time day jobs can do on our own," Weisser said. "We have a space where artists can work on their projects while they're here and we'd love to have more people join us."

ALT Creative is online at altcreativeduluth.com.

Related Topics: DULUTHARTSMALL BUSINESS
Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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